Kiwis from New Zealand, tomatoes from Mexico, bananas from Ecuador, grapes from South Africa … Shopping in the supermarket is like immersing yourself in the big wide world. Also, contemplating the variety of fruits and vegetables available, it is hardly possible to tell which season is outside the supermarket. A huge logistic is behind the extensive product range.
Long Transport Chains
The food supply sometimes requires very long transports and the associated consumption of a lot of energy, not only for transport, but also to cool the goods. In addition, there is the energy and raw material for the production of the packaging material and the many plastic foils used for cultivating vegetables. The transport of food over long distances has increased because of global trade unions.
To reduce these energy expenses, local produce should be given preference. This has many advantages, also for the consumer. Fruits and vegetables can be harvested when they are ripe, since there are only short transport routes. Mature products not only taste better, the nutritional value is also higher.
In recent years, scientists have been following very closely the traces of the so-called phytochemicals in natural produce such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, herbs and teas. These are substances that the plants produce for their own pest protection and to avoid being eaten. But it also includes coloring and flavoring substances, plant toxins and hormones. In nutritional science, these substances were predominantly referred to as unhealthy and anti-nutrients. Today the tide has turned. Cancer research, in particular, indicates that there is more to be found in fruits and vegetables than minerals and vitamins. More of these valuable ingredients can be found in mature products that are in season and that could grow on organic farming.
Exotics from Overseas
Overseas fruit is usually harvested unripe. Chemical agents are often used to suppress the natural ripening process, trying to bring the products to the market when they are ready for consumption. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. Often the hard, tasteless fruits are just a far reminiscent of the exotic ones that you got to know on your previous vacation. Certainly nothing is wrong with adding some tropical fruits every now and then to the menu. But local products should preferably be served.
Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables from the greenhouse and cultivated in tunnels have higher nitrate contents than vegetables grown in the open because of the lack of sunlight. More pesticides must also be used. Such residues can be reduced with a seasonal diet. In winter and spring, winter hardy vegetables should therefore be preferred: lamb’s lettuce, kale, leek, storable vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, red beets, celery, endive, radicchio, apples and pears. Pumpkins also last well into winter. Let’s also get the first green from the wild, such as dandelions, wild garlic, ground elder, violets and daisies.
Marketing directly from the producer to the consumer contributes a lot to securing the livelihood of local small and medium-sized farms. Associated with this is the preservation of the rural landscape and of cultural assets. By shopping from the farm or at the farmers’ market, we can also do a lot to avoid waste. Around half of the volume of household waste is packaging, of which around 90% are food packaging.
Products from Organic Farming
Organic farming techniques not only take into account the lower environmental impact, but also results in healthier and better-tasting products. Organic farming offers reasonable alternatives for many problems. Pollution of soil, air, water and food is reduced, besides the superior taste and nutritional value. In addition, the biodiversity is being preserved by cultivating varieties that are not used in large scale commercial production.
Cultivation in the Garden
Growing in your own garden more than pays off – despite the cheap goods at the supermarket. The short way from the garden to the kitchen guarantees freshness and quality. There are also other health benefits: exercise in the fresh air while gardening and the joy of working with the Creator. Growth and prosperity come from him. The gardener sows, cherishes, cares and is looking forward to the harvest.
In this sense, spring offers a good new beginning. Let’s learn to rethink. The comfortable reach on the supermarket shelf is not always the best way. Let’s start with our own garden, let’s plant a few vegetable patches again. Maybe we go out of our way to buy directly at the farm and give preference to local products. Many small steps pave the way to better health and a more intact environment.
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Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.